What makes a rivalry great?
Often it’s proximity, a shared state or a shared border.
In the case of LSU and Alabama, it’s combined success and a little envy and hatred mixed in. LSU-Alabama has been a long-running — if at times one-sided — rivalry, with the teams meeting every year since 1964.
Since 2007, though, the rivalry has gone to a new level, becoming one of the best rivalries going and dominating the national scene.
Over the past seven years, these teams have combined for three BCS national championships, and one or both teams have been ranked in the top five each time, as they are this year, with Alabama at No. 1 and LSU at No. 5.
Here’s a look at some of the game’s other great rivalries through the years:
NOTRE DAME VS. USC, 1926-PRESENT
The Fighting Irish and Trojans have met every year since 1926, creating the nation’s most enduring and impressive inter-sectional rivalry. No two schools involved in an annual rivalry have won more combined national championships than these two — 15. Only once, though, did the Irish and Trojans meet in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. That was back in 1988, when 10-0 Notre Dame handled 10-0 USC 27-10 en route to its last of eight national titles in the wire-service era.
ARMY VS. NOTRE DAME, 1943-47
For years, this was the game on Notre Dame’s schedule. In the 1940s the rivalry reached its peak, with the teams winning five successive national titles from 1943-47 and having four of five Heisman Trophy winners in those years. Their showdown at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, 1946, was billed as a “Game of the Century.” The Irish and Black Knights tied 0-0, with Notre Dame going on to claim the national title.
MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE, 1969-78
One of the all-time great rivalries hit its peak during the decade when Michigan coach Bo Schembechler faced off with former boss Woody Hayes of Ohio State in what became known as “The Ten Year War.” The two dominated the Big Ten, with the teams either sharing the conference title or winning it outright. Michigan held a 5-4-1 edge over that span, but Ohio State went 3-0-1 with Archie Griffin from 1972-75, prompting him to say, “I never lost to Michigan, and I take more pride in that than I do winning two Heisman Trophies.” That’s a rivalry.
NEBRASKA VS. OKLAHOMA, 1970-88
There was perhaps never a greater rivalry for an extended period of time than Nebraska-Oklahoma. For nearly two decades, the Cornhuskers and Sooners battled — not only for Big Eight supremacy, but for control of college football itself. They won or shared the Big Eight title every year except 1976 during this span, combined to win five national titles and produced three Heisman Trophy winners (Johnny Rodgers and Mike Rozier of Nebraska, Billy Sims of OU). Nine times between 1971-87, both teams were ranked in the top six coming into the game, including No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups in 1971 (a 35-31 Cornhuskers win often called the Game of the Century) and in 1987 (OU won 17-7).
FLORIDA STATE VS. MIAMI, 1987-2006
For two decades, this rivalry had it all: six eventual national champions, 13 top-10 matchups, three Heisman winners and fabulous finishes. Seven games were decided by three points or less, including the No. 1 Seminoles’ 17-16 win over the No. 2 Hurricanes in 1991. When Miami joined FSU in the ACC in 2004, the two were placed in opposite divisions with hopes of a colossal matchup in the ACC title game, but the ’Canes have never made it.